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Looking back, what really convinced you to begin writing with TeX or LaTeX?

This question is "community wiki", so there's no reputation to lose or to gain.

Please don't write advantages of TeX and LaTeX or any pros and cons.

I hope to read about something like

  • a drastic experience that led you to TeX,
  • a beautiful book, paper or poster that changed your view dramatically,
  • a first big success with a (La)TeX creation,
  • a person who inspired you.

Anything in this spirit would be great. Please post just a single reason or event in each answer. If you further shared a similar experience that you read here, voting that up would be fine.

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I think at first it was mostly curiosity. –  Caramdir Aug 21 '10 at 10:48
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I started using Latex because I wanted my school HW's to look really nice since the teacher at the time was adding 10% extra credit for well written reports. I really only wanted that extra credit for the HWs. This is how it all started. But now I use Latex for almost everything, even if there is no extra credit. –  Nasser Jul 4 '13 at 3:07
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40 Answers 40

I wrote my masters thesis using MS word and always wondered there must be better tool out there. Then a friend of mine told me about LaTeX, I tried but gave up. After a year or two I took up a job to create pdf document of 6 volumes of Ramayanam, which I could read on iPad. I saw the formatting of Gita press gorakhpur and thought to use that template. Then posted the questions about the template on this forum and finally I managed to create a 6000 page pdf document with best formatting I have ever done in my life. Hats off to the forum and creator of LaTeX / XeLaTeX.

Now I write my notes and documents in XeLaTeX only. I am working on Laghu Siddhanta Kaumudi. The flexibility it offers, I can not explain in words.

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It is 1982 and I had just been made product manager for our PDP 11 (RSX11M) based SCADA system. I had acquired a spare PDP 11 for a development machine and persuaded the powers that be to let me purchase Unix so we could use it for a central configuration management environment. I also had a budget for a line printer for listings, but I instead purchased the (then) brand new HP Laserjet instead. My chief technical guy used nroff to produce a series of macros to enable us to write documents to a house style on this laserjet. All of a sudden, we had version controlled documents that were by far the most consistent and good looking in the company. The only disadvantage was that we couldn't add diagrams. This system kept us going until we were more or less forced by the take up of Microsoft Word around us (and particularly its ability to include pictures and diagrams) about 5 years later. But I became a fan of WYSIWYM and have been hankering after something like that for a long time. I even blogged about it some ideas 2004 http://www.chandlerfamily.org.uk/2004/11/wysiwyg-v-wysiwym/

Fast forward to today, and I am semi retired, but still writing software and attempting to establish a house style and not enjoying trying to do it in Libre Office. I am also frustrated how these open formats do not play well with my git version control system. Having just found latex and its capabilities I can see that it has all the benefits our original system had plus the advantage of graphics. As a test I wrote a quite complicated entity relationship diagram using the tikz package and once I had worked out how to do it, surprisingly easy to get a very high quality result.

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I wanted to create a beautiful résumé. So, I downloaded moderncv and edited it to my heart's content.

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I came to (La)TeX as a graphic designer fed up w/ the limitations of Quark XPress and Aldus PageMaker (I think that should adequately place my experience time-wise) --- I'd just read Bringhurst's Elements of Typographic Style and was enchanted w/ the idea of perfection and hanging punctuation, &c.

At that time, the only graphical design tool which could hang punctuation into the margin nicely was Altsys Virtuoso, which ran on NeXTstep on a NeXT Cube. NeXTstep included TeX, and Tom Rokicki's TeXview.app --- TeX was the first design tool I found which had the same freedom and limitless possibilities as paper (or vellum, or parchment) and ink, where the limiting factor wasn't the featureset some corporation was willing to implement, but my own ingenuity and skill and patience.

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I'm just getting started, and haven't actually used LaTeX for a real project yet...

I've had a few projects lately related to programmatically-generated documents, and I'm not satisfied with the results. LaTeX was on my radar, but I didn't have time to investigate until last week.

Some process complex lab data and produce a report that describes the results. Early versions were plain *.txt files; other than using a bit of white space they were difficult to read at times. Lately I've been using HTML output which allows for more complex formatting and is still accessible; but the output is inconsistent between browsers, and prints terribly!

I have also let the creation of some documents which were quote large and repetitive (over 2400 pages on 11x17!). Typically these documents are created by hand in Word, but that clearly wasn't an option due to the scale needed for these. We were able to generate MS Word files in sections, which were manually stitched together, and tweaked to keep it from breaking.

I wanted to include diagrams, but haven't found a practical method of generating them.

At this point, LaTeX looks to be a great fit, as I can generate plain-text files easily enough (even broken across multiple files), then render them to print-perfect PDF files that anyone can view. With Tikz (or the like), I can even include those diagrams!

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It was listings, then bibtex, then beamer – and then I just got used to it.

I wrote and edited a couple of theses in Word (up to 200 pages), with dozens of figures and tables, hundreds of references and so on. It was not at all a bad experience. I took the time to really understand Word, its concepts, and also it quirks. I then developed strategies and macro packages to work with them and to automate repeating tasks. In the end it is just the point that you have to know your tool.

I came to LaTeX via LyX during my PhD time. My supervisor used LyX, so I started writing my papers with it. I started to love the easy bibliography handling with bibtex, however, the first thing that really stroke me was the listings package: Beautiful typesetting of listings, the ability to refer to line numbers, and automatic syntax highlighting! I could not imagine how to automate this with Word.

Then I had to prepare a lecture with 500+ slides. I never loved Powerpoint, which has, compared to Word nearly no concepts of semantic markup, hierarchical structure, and so on. So I tried beamer. As my slides tend to be very visual, it was a steep learning curve and I had to abondon LyX, as basically everything ended up to be ERT boxes. So I started with plain LaTeX in VIM. VIM spoiled capability to use any other editor, so I quickly stopped to use LyX for other stuff as well (too many spurious ighjkls in the middle of the text...).

And as I wrote: I just got used to it.

Today, I love it because of the great "programming capabilities" that let me define powerful problem-related concepts for my projects.

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When I first started using LaTeX, I wanted to be able to write papers using a text editor rather than word processing program. I was willing to embed special characters using high-bit ASCII codes, and to generate underlines and other simple effects by embedding ANSI codes in the file. The only reason I started to learn LaTeX--rather than just printing raw text files--was that I needed footnotes, and I realized that it would be too hard to code that up myself. That's it--footnotes. Of course, I got a lot more from the bargain and was happy about that, especially later on when my work became more mathematical.

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I wrote my PhD thesis in troff (heavy math involved), a few years later I was invited to collaborate with my advisor on some followup papers written in LaTeX. LaTeX has much more structure (in the sense of structured programming à la Pascal and such), I got hooked. Never really looked at TeX. Almost everything larger than a page or so I write in LaTeX nowadays.

I also dabbled in writing largeish documents in Word (mostly collaborating with a group of people, luckily no math but plenty of graphs and spreadsheet-style tables), not a experience I look forward to repeat anytime.

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In my university, most of the people in Schools of Mathematics & Statistics and Physics (note that they are two schools) are using LaTeX as a primary typesetting. They use LaTeX for typing lecture notes, or assignments etc.

I am a artistic person (although I do Physics), so when I heard of my lecturer that there is something in this world called LaTeX - I instantly write my homework by using LaTeX.

Unfortunately, I am not using LaTeX to write my homework (guess how I do my homework) at the moment. Instead, I use LaTeX to author textbooks that can use semantic decorations (such as Tikz uses programming to draw diagrams). I am a Physics and Information Systems person (did I said I am an artistic person...), using LaTeX can practice my logics with organising the nodes logically and so on...

So my message is...

LaTeX can boost your marks!*

*(Although this is not always true, when I need to write textbooks for procrastination, I can't get rid of LaTeX)

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Like many others, my thesis director told me to use LaTeX when I had to write something he had to read himself afterwards (he couldn't bear to read anything written with Word). Progressively I got to use LaTeX for everything to be printed, since the most straightforward letter to the most complicated math paper…

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